Our latest cheap dinner recipe comes on a Friday night with the bare bones left from the last grocery shop. We had andouille sausage, a bag of potatoes and a yellow onion. I contemplated mashed potatoes, which is always a solid go-to side dish. We use a potato ricer to mash and it makes some of the smoothest mashed taters I’ve known. But, this post isn’t about mashed potatoes.
We are just a few days after Halloween and haven’t gotten around to carving our pumpkin. It’s tough in Florida because once you carve the pumpkin, you might have two or three days of a jack-o-lantern before it turns black and rots. So, waiting until the last few days before Halloween is crucial. This year, we let the holiday pass us by without carving the thing so I made sure to have a back up plan for it.
It just so happens that I was invited to a girls night at a friends house with an all-pumpkin theme. At the ladies-only shindig there was pumpkin turkey chili, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spiced sangria, and we made pumpkin biscuits to go with the chili and roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack. We needed 1 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree for the biscuits, so onward with the home made kind! We ended up with 10 cups of pumpkin puree using a medium-large pumpkin. There are smaller pumpkins that might work better, but this is what we had already.
Dishes are just a bit fancier when they have an edible vessel. Take stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, quinoa salad in an acorn squash, taco salads in a tortilla shell bowl, etc. This recipe is no exception and up to this point I hadn’t ever used a cucumber as a vessel for a recipe, but it works great. Continue reading
Cherry Tomato Salad with Homemade Croutons: A New Summer Favorite
I don’t recall how I came across this recipe, but I believe it was from the Smitten Kitchen Facebook page since they are a regular in my feed. This tomato salad recipe stuck out because we had a bag of cherry tomatoes in the fridge for about a week or so and some home made bread in the freezer waiting to be used for breadcrumbs or croutons. With basil growing in the back yard and all but one ingredient already in the house, it was the perfect cheap side dish for us.
We varied the recipe ever-so-slightly since we recently ran out of shallots (which we bought SUPER-cheap at the neighborhood Asian food store – $2.50/lb), used all red cherry tomatoes, added some olives and we made the crouton topping from a left over homemade loaf of rye bread. But, it’s a really simple recipe and uses a pretty standard base, so, you can’t really mess too much up. What I love about cheap recipes using ingredients already on hand and not bought for the specific purpose of a recipe, is that they seem free. Not that I wouldn’t use those ingredients up on something else, it just seems overly convenient.
I do love a good salad recipe and when it has fresh, in-season tomatoes, it’s bound to be a keeper. If you’ve never done it before, you can find some really nice guides on how to grow tomatoes so don’t be afraid! Combine the acidic flavor of tomatoes with olives and red wine vinegar, and it really puts a summery zip into a meal. Salads also tend to be quick to assemble since there’s hardly any cooking time required but prep-time can be a little daunting depending on how many ingredients there are. But, this is also another reason to love this recipe: it has very few ingredients and very little prep time. Hooray!
Alright, let’s get on with it then. First, a photo preview:
Cheap Cherry Tomato Salad Recipe
- 1 extra thick slice of stale, homemade rye bread
- 1/2 of a small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped kalamata olives
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground Black pepper
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Lb of cherry tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- Pinch of sugar
- 7-8 Large basil leaves finely slivered
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and coarsely chop the slice of bread
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the bread crumbs, onion, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp of olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Toss to evenly coat the crumbs.
- Spread crumbs onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12-16 minutes, flipping the crumbs over once.
- Once they are golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, slice all of the cherry tomatoes in half and place on a large plate, cut side up. Sprinkle with chopped olives.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of sugar. Drizzle mixture over the tomatoes and olives.
- Sprinkle the cooled bread crumbs over the tomato-olive mixture, top with basil and serve immediately.
French Toast made with homemade bread, granola, peanut butter and bananas
One of the many ways to save money on food is to bake your own bread. This is something I haven’t explored much with in the past, but since moving back to the States, breadmakers are a dime a dozen. It didn’t take us two weeks to find a yard sale with a $1 breadmaker. Holla! Now, I know that it’s not crucial to have a breadmaker in order to bake your own bread, but wow it takes the mess and manual labor out of it. I’m still learning the quirky differences in the various types of flours and yeasts but I love the smell and texture of freshly baked bread right out of the oven. My husband has been doing his pizza dough in there now too, cheater.
After the first few loaves of bread in the new-used breadmaker, I decided to revert back to a simple, no-fail, white bread recipe. It turned out amazing, with a beautiful crisp crust and soft, fluffy and warm inside. I was pretty proud of my bread machine at this point.
One thing to remember about homemade bread is that it really doesn’t last more than 3 days, and even that 3rd day leaves you wanting it fresh out of the oven instead. Yes, it’s true, you become a bread snob shortly after learning to make your own bread, but why shouldn’t you? Your bread is better than the bagged crap at the store selling for too much money. So, if you don’t eat all of the loaf by the third day and it starts to get hard, use it for French Toast.
French Toast is much better when you use thick slices of somewhat dry bread, so that it doesn’t become soggy when you dip it in the batter. My homemade white bread was at the perfect texture when I needed it most. I had been jonesing for some French Toast for a few days and this particular morning seemed to be the perfect one. So, I set out and remembered a recipe I did a few years ago that included peanut butter, bananas and granola. This batch came together slightly different. Here’s how I made it:
French Toast with Peanut Butter, Granola and Bananas
- 1 Cup almond milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 thick slices of homemade white bread (2-3 days old)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 Cup rolled oats
- 1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 Tbsp raw honey
- 8 tsp natural peanut butter
- 16 thin slices of banana
- 2 fresh strawberries (for garnish)
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix up eggs with almond milk and cinnamon
- On a medium-sized plate, combine the oats, flax, and walnuts. Mix together with your hand until well-combined.
- Heat up 1 Tbsp butter in a small/medium frying pan on medium heat
- Cut the two bread slices into 4 equal squares
- Dip the first 4 squares into the egg mixture and drag the sides through the granola mixture.
- Place them into the frying pan and let cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Flip with tongs and brown the other side. Remove from the pan and set on a clean plate.
- With the remaining 4 pieces of bread, repeat steps 3-6.
- While the 2nd set of French Toast squares are cooking, spread a teaspoon of peanut butter and two slices of banana on each of the finished squares and stack them on top of each other.
- Slice the strawberry thinly and place on top of the stack.
- Pour honey over the top and add a dash of extra cinnamon. Repeat with the 2nd set of French Toast squares.
- Serve hot.
Citrus Lentil Salad Recipe
Lentils might be the most underrated food, for the American diet, that is. You’ll find lentils in diets across the globe, but not often in the United States. I wonder why that is since they are so cheap and healthy to boot. It’s crazy how a third world country could eat healthier than a rich and powerful western nation. I guess there’s always hope and I’m thankful I’ve been exposed to proper nutrition to make a decision about my diet and improve my life overall. With a cheap food like lentils, it’s amazing that people choose non-nutritious foods that just toxify the body.
I’ve made soups with lentils before but never really thought to use them in as a primary ingredient in side dishes or salads, until recently. Now I’ve opened up my menu of lunches and dinners considerably. In fact, this new staple cheap food of mine, when paired up with brown rice, the make a perfect protein (which is defined as a food with all nine essential amino acids) and these things are pretty versatile. Some of my absolute favorite lentil recipes come from this site and I’m sure I’ll be posting more as I explore with lentils.
There are tons of different types of lentils, according to Wikipedia:
- Brown/Spanish Pardina
- French Green/Puy lentils (Dark speckled blue-green)
- Yellow/Tan Lentils (Red inside)
- Red Chief (Decorticated yellow lentils)
- Eston Green (Small green)
- Richlea (Medium green)
- Laird (Large green)
- Petite Golden (Decorticated lentils)
- Masoor (Brown-skinned lentils which are red inside)
- Petite Crimson/Red (Decorticated masoor lentils)
- Macachiados (Big Mexican yellow lentils)
The recipe below combines the clashing flavors of oranges and red onion for a perfect dissonance on top of the Indian Garam Masala seasoning and hearty lentils. It’s great as a side dish or as a larger portion for a full lunch.
Citrus Lentil Salad Ingredients
- 1 Cup of dried lentils (any color)
- 2 small mandarin oranges, segmented, seeded and membrane removed
- 1/2 small red onion, julienned
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, stemmed and finely chopped
- 1/2 of a fresh jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/8 Cup of olive oil
- Juice from one lemon (or lime)
- 1 Tbsp Garam Masala seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste
Citrus Lentil Salad Directions
- Prepare the lentils as directed on the package (use chicken or vegetable stock in the water for additional flavor).
- Toss lentils in a mixing bowl with remaining ingredients until well coated and salt & pepper to taste.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow flavors to blend evenly.
Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe
Caramel popcorn is definitely for times when the sweet tooth takes over, but I have a hard time resisting snacks that are salty and sweet, especially cheap ones. Most sweet and savory snacks I love include chocolate. Chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered potato chips, honey-roasted peanuts, etc. But in this case, we got a sweet caramel instead.
When a friend of a friend came to Costa Rica to live for a few months from The States, she brought with her an amazingly cheap no bake cookie recipe that started with homemade caramel, which holds the cookies together. After getting through the majority of the cookie-making, we quickly realized we had too much caramel. That was no problem though, we’re quick thinkers and have popcorn kernels ready at a moment’s notice.
Not too long ago I had a birthday, which brought a fabulous new air popper. My husband bought it while we were traveling to North Carolina two weeks before and managed to hide it from me until my actual birthday. His hints toward the gift was simply that I would probably use it every day. My first thought went to a juicer, but knew that wouldn’t fit inconspicuously in his luggage, so I was stumped. However, when my birthday finally arrived, he was right, I WAS going to use this every day. You can’t get a much cheaper snack than homemade pop corn! So naturally, I broke out the air popper for breakfast and made my first batch of air popped popcorn. Amazing. Super-light and fluffy and there’s a convenient place to heat the butter to drizzle over the top.
Alright, back to the caramel popcorn. With the extra caramel from the no-bake cookie recipe, we knew we couldn’t let it cool or it would become solid, so we left it on the stove on low and cranked up the air popper. In just a few minutes we were ready to toss and eat it. The only drawback to how we went about this batch of caramel corn was the amount of caramel, which was too much. We could have done twice or three times the amount of pop corn and coated them a little thinner. But, it’s also hard to keep it fresh without going stale since we don’t have the luxury of preservatives like the commercial caramel popcorn companies do. So, I recommend eating it all in one batch, as we didn’t have very much success storing it for later. But if someone has a suggestion for this, PLEASE let me know. I’d love to have this stuff on hand.
Below is the recipe for a large batch of homemade caramel popcorn, which can easily be adapted to include all kinds of delicious extras (mini chocolate chips or peanut butter, etc) but this is the basic recipe. Since some of the caramel was first used in no bake cookies, you can safely half the recipe if you are only feeding, say four people. Enjoy!
Caramel Popcorn Ingredients
- 1/2 Cup salted butter
- 1 Cup of light brown sugar
- 1/4 Cup of corn syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Cup of uncooked popcorn kernels
Caramel Popcorn Directions
- In small batches on the stove top or with an air popper, cook the popcorn and place it into a giant bowl (stainless steel works best, but plastic or glass is alright).
- In a small sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt and bring to a boil (4-5 minutes).
- Remove from heat and add baking soda, vanilla and cinnamon.
- Slowly drizzle the caramel over the cooked popcorn, mixing constantly to coat evenly. Do this slowly until your popcorn is coated to your liking and let cool for 2-4 minutes. Make more popcorn to coat with any extra caramel you have.
- Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve.
Not Just Another Cheap Salad Recipe
If there’s one thing Cheap Food Here is set out to do, it’s get as far away from the stereotype that cheap food is boring. Many think that cheap food is unhealthy or uninventive just because you don’t have the ‘luxury’ of spending an arm and a leg when you’re shopping. The truth is, salads, for example, CAN be boring and uninventive, but a lot of times you just need a great homemade salad dressing to jazz things up a bit. One of our passions at Cheap Food Here is with salad dressings that perfectly balance the oil and vinegar mix in vinaigrettes adding fresh fruit or herbs that provide a natural freshness bottled dressings can’t.
Figuring out alternative ways to make a great, healthy, flavorful salad often starts with a great base. Ice berg lettuce can be a bit tasteless, but has a great crunch, so someone along the way figured out that cutting the head into fourths gives it a fancy style and thus named it a wedge salad. What a perfect cheap salad that is marketed brilliantly. Green leaf and red leaf lettuce add great color and texture with a somewhat delicate texture to contrast the crunch of veggies like cucumber, bell pepper and onion. Romaine on the other hand has crunchy with soft and a whole lot of vitamins and have done wonders with the Caesar Salad.
But don’t forget about cabbage as an option for a base. There are a ton of health benefits of cabbage, but most importantly, Cabbage has more vitamin C than oranges do per serving, is high in fiber and helps with brain function because of it’s high iodine content. The texture is thicker and hardier than lettuce and has a great distinct flavor which pairs well with ingredients you might not expect to find in a salad.
The recipe below combines three unique flavors, giving the salad an Asian flair that pairs well with fish or chicken dishes, like seafood empanadas or chicken empanadas. Enjoy it with a glass of white wine and tell me your thoughts.
Purple Cabbage & Green Bean Salad Ingredients
- 1/2 head red cabbage
- 1 cup green beans, ends removed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A splash of sesame oil
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Juice from one Lemon
Purple Cabbage & Green Bean Salad Directions
- Thinly slice the cabbage until you have a pile of shreds similar to coleslaw. Place into a large glass or wooden bowl.
- In a small pot with boiling water, blanch the grean beans for 2 minutes and then plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
- Then slice the green beans thinly into rounds and place in the mixing bowl with the cabbage.
- Add the remaining ingredients, toss until evenly coated and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 hours.
It’s rare for me to find a hummus that I don’t like and there are a million recipes out there for me to try. However, today’s hummus recipe is my very own, no recipe used, but inspired by a hummus I had when I first visited Costa Rica and found a Lebanese restaurant called Lubnan. This place is decorated in a very Mediterranean style, gives off a great vibe and has terrific food. It’s located on Paseo Colón just a few blocks down from La Sabana on the right hand side. On Thursday nights they have a belly dancing show, which is great to take visitors to before sending them off to the beach or canopy tour for the weekend. However, this post isn’t about Lubnan since the prices don’t fit in very well with cheapfoodhere.com but the restaurant plays a huge role in the backstory on the fabulous hummus we had there.
We were expecting a fairly traditional hummus when we ordered it, but once it came to the table we realized they left the chickpeas whole and added a few extra ingredients. The hummus was served warm, with whole garbanzos, raw onion and tomatoes tossed in just before serving. Based on taste there seemed to be tahini, garlic (a LOT of it), lemon juice and olive oil in there as well, but I’m not sure about the rest. I had never had hummus like this before with the whole bean used and served warm, but it was amazing. It was served with warm pita bread and I remember being so impressed with the hummus that I wrote down what I thought was in it on a cocktail napkin to refer back to later. This hummus is something that has stuck with me until today, two and a half years later when I needed to make lunch and just happened to have a can of chickpeas handy, but the cocktail napkin has long since disappeared. So, I was left with just my memory.
My husband has struggled lately trying to perfect his own ground hummus recipe. He’s tried dried garbanzos, canned, brining them, slow cooking them, and everything but deep frying them. Not to make fun, but there were a few times where he merely soaked the dried garbanzos without actually cooking the beans. Needless to say, the raw hummus was inedible, poor guy. Since then the hummus has slowly improved but he still hasn’t nailed it yet. So, I decided to take back ownership of the household hummus recipe and change it up a bit.
Here’s the recipe, it turned out fantastic and will definitely stay on the docket for future lunch, dinner or party recipes.
Whole Garbanzo Hummus Ingredients
- 1 large can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 fresh Roma tomato, seeded and chopped into small pieces
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp reserved chickpea water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- juice from half a lime
Whole Garbanzo Hummus Directions
- Drain garbanzos, reserving 2 tbsp of liquid, and pour into a small pot.
- Add reserved liquid, tahini, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and olive oil.
- Put on medium heat and stir until well-mixed and hot throughout.
- Remove from heat.
- Add lemon juice, chopped onion, tomato and salt and mix well.
- Serve immediately with warm pita slices.
Making empanada dough correctly is the hardest part about the whole process of putting together the perfect empanada. I spent some long hours trying to get the dough just right; looking at every recipe on the internet I could find, and then some. I tried recipes with yeast, baking powder, corn flour, butter, shortening, spices, eggs, etc. None of them turned out the way I wanted. To save you time, I have put together a list of empanada mistakes so you can read them without actually experiencing the same problems I had.